Astella sits at the top end of Adria’s ranges. These two models, one with a double bed (the Rio Grande), the other with twin beds (the Amazon), are unique in the market. They’re the biggest caravans on the mainstream tourer market, at 8.22m (albeit by only a whisker; three of the Buccaneers are 8.16m). And, at 2.45m wide, they share the width top spot with Buccaneers.
Astellas are also among the heaviest tourers, at 1900kg MTPLM. Yet, in price terms, Astellas sit comfortably among mid-range caravans.
So what do you get in a hefty, enormous caravan that only costs £23,590?
You get Alde heating and AL-KO’s electronic stability system, ATC. Those features set Astellas apart from all other Adrias. You also get a built-in step. These are among a very few tourers that look and feels more like luxury apartments than caravans. That’s not just about size. It’s about décor. And it’s about layout.
Extra width means extra flexibility in terms of caravan design. The Rio Grande is wide enough to have a longitudinally-aligned bed and a large dressing table running the entire length of the bedroom AND a corridor of a generous width. It’s a splendid arrangement which makes a major contribution to the apartment appeal.
It’s the central area, though, that makes the Slovenian-made Astellas incomparable with British-built caravans. This is where you relax and eat, on a sumptuous L-shaped sofa plus a second, two-seater sofa on the nearside. There’s a freestanding table to sit in the middle for mealtimes. And there’s a light, suspended on a chrome arm, which you can swing out over the table.
The kitchen is at the front. Like the dining-lounge, it’s L-shaped, and with a skylight which arches high into the roofline, giving this area of the caravan a slightly conservatory aspect.
And the showering department? That’s across the rear, with lots of nice styling touches…
Lighting is concealed behind mirrors in the shower cubicle and also in the toilet area and around the edge of the shower mounting panel that rises up from the Alde radiator.
The basin is white, oval and with a large rise-and-fall plug; you give it a quick push to raise it to release the water. There’s even a toilet brush, in a smart chrome container (a feature unique to Adrias), and a matching pole to support two toilet rolls. It’s all very refined.
The Rio Grande is one of only three 2015 caravans in Britain that are three-berths. You can turn the offside settee into a single bed. But this is primarily a caravan for two, with a lovely home-from-home bedroom. The mattress is foam, and quite firm; some may say it’s too firm for their preference. It’s made in four sections, all linked by the fabric cover. The division along the centre of the cover allows you to raise half of the base to gain access to the storage area beneath. Two more divisions in the mattress, this time across the bed, allow the mattress to take the shape of a sun lounger, with the pillow area raised at an angle, so you can turn one or both sides of your bed into a chaise longue.
There’s a bracket for a television, conveniently out of the way on the side of the wardrobe; power and aerial connections are close by. But Adrias don’t come with aerials, so you’ll need to ask your retailer to fit one.
A large measure of the bedroom’s appeal is its lighting and décor. Concealed lighting runs under the lockers. There are three bright LED clusters above the dressing table. And two conical-shaded lights above each pillow area; these lights contribute to the bedroom’s home-from-home look, together with the padded cream leather-look rear wall, with three bands of chrome.
The leather-look fabric runs along the nearside wall, too, and also cloaks the entire bed box. That’s one of the features that helps to make the Rio Grande look so plush and cosy.
The space under the bed is the Rio Grande’s greatest storage asset. But there’s a problem. It’s the table. This is surely the most substantially-constructed caravan table we’ve ever encountered. And when it’s not on dining-room duty, it’s under the bed. Which is where it was when we took “possession” of our review Rio Grande. There it had to stay, for the first half day, until the photographer arrived to help me to lift it out. This is a four-handed job, mostly because of the weight of the table, and also because the bed base is not self-supporting, so someone has to hold it up.
Nine shelf spaces in the dressing table, two over-bed lockers, more lockers over the seating, a good-sized wardrobe with a shoe area beneath… And there’s more space under the seating, although it’s unlikely you’ll ever need it. If you do, though, you'll have to remove the upholstery, we discovered, because the lids are not self-supporting.
Once we’d manoeuvred the gargantuan table into the “dining-room” and expanded its chunky monopod from the coffee table height of its storage mode, we quickly began to appreciate that this is a very special caravan dining area.
Accepting that the Rio Grande is ostensibly a caravan for two, there are two eating position options. The table can go across the caravan, so you can sit on opposite sides. Or it can go close to the offside settee, so you can sit side-by-side and swing the TV bracket around to face the table.
There’s actually the same amount of seating space as in a traditional long parallel lounge caravan. But this is so much more like a domestic lounge. Our review example is equipped with the leather option, which adds £1100 to the cost; well worth it, in our opinion.
The upholstery extends down to floor level, just like a house settee.
The storage capacity of the Rio Grande’s kitchen is enormous. There are three deep, wide drawers, a two-shelf cabinet plus a floor-to-ceiling cupboard with four shelves. This unit has versatility that’s arguably the most impressive we’ve seen in a caravan. It can either be used for kitchen paraphernalia or as a wardrobe. There’s a rail beneath the top shelf. And you can hinge the shelf below it up against the wall, to create more hanging depth. This is ideal to hang up coats as you step inside. You can use the base shelf for shoes; again, conveniently close to the doorway.
The oven and grill are at eye-height, above the fridge. But it’s not ideal for people of short stature.
The triple-burner, in-line hob is another Adria exclusivity. The black glass lid is in two sections, so that you can keep two of the burners covered (and have more surface to use) while cooking on one burner. It’s one of many praiseworthy design features in the Rio Grande.
It’s not long since we were towing our long-term-test Adria Adora Isonzo of almost identical dimensions and weight. In several hundred miles of journeys from our base in Lincolnshire to Cornwall, the West Midlands and Norfolk its road manners impressed us.
Like the Astella, it has the cranked Delta axle (AL-KO) which enhances cornering stability. It’s a feature which we feel, after so many miles of Isonzo towing, goes a long way to overcome the comparison that potential buyers will draw between these long single-axle caravans and everything else of comparable length made in Britain, all of which ride on two axles.
So as we set out with the Astella on the hook, we expected it to feel just as good as the Isonzo. Which it did.
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